Thursday, March 8, 2012

Vanberg & DeWulf - Lambickx Review

Brewery: Vanberg & DeWulf (NY)
Style: Lambic / Sour Beer 

ABV: 5.75%
Grade: B+

I finally understand what people mean by "skunky" smells in sour beers. It's not the first time I've encountered it — most Berliner Weisse beers or sour mash beers have the smell, to some extent. Kombucha, sometimes, has a similar odor. Most lambics do not. This is the first full-fledged sour I would call 'skunky.' That sounds bad, I know. But it's not necessarily. It's... interesting. Lambickx certainly does release a kind of foot-y, skunky smell; a raw, wild bacterial aroma. Yet it's not nasty or rotten — it smells alive.

That aroma does linger a bit in the flavor, but Lambickx is complicated enough that no one character dominates it. There isn't as much acidic, puckering sourness here as I've had in other sours. That relative subtlety of sourness might even be what allows some more "wild," barnyard flavors to come through. This beer is one of the funkiest I've encountered; funky almost in the odd, aged way that a very complex cheese is funky. (Note: I am not saying this tastes at all like cheese.) There is Brett barnyard funk as well, and the general fruity lemony character you expect from sours.

The more it warms in the glass, the more the flavor opens up and grows more complex, although it never really loses the intense skunkiness in the nose. While the sourness is somewhat restrained, it's not as interesting as in others, either. This is a good sour with some strange off-flavors; drinkable and interesting, but maybe just a bit too odd. The flavor seems stuck somewhere between the smooth drinkabilty of a Berliner Weisse the complex intensity of other Belgian sours, which makes this unique, but not one of my favorites.

Availability: Due to the nature of the process (Lambickx is not blended, like most lambics, but comes from specifically chosen barrels from one year's lambic crop), this particular beer can only be a one-time-ever release. The 2012 version should come out at the end of the year, but it won't be the same. 750 ml bottle.

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